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GRAWA President’s Message: A look back at GRAWA’s year of accomplishments

Kimberly Duguay

It is hard to believe that my year as GRAWA’s 30th president is coming to a close. The camaraderie and support that GRAWA members provide each other is truly exceptional. This commitment to GRAWA enabled us to complete so many events that it is difficult to choose which ones to highlight.

Of course GRAWA continued its traditional programs. Our New Members Reception began the fall season with a wonderful opportunity to welcome and get to know our new members while celebrating our longstanding members who reached 25 years as admitted attorneys.

Our Judicial Candidates Luncheon was hosted and moderated by the Hon. Robert J. Lunn, former associate justice of the New York State Appellate Division, Fourth Department, and the Hon. Richard D. Rosenbloom, retired New York State Supreme Court judge. This affordable event was open to the public, and provided each of the five judicial candidates the opportunity to share their platform and answer questions from the audience. We also continued the tradition of chamber chats with the Hon. Craig J. Doran, who generously shared both his knowledge and sense of humor over lunch at the Hall of Justice.

GRAWA’s annual holiday party continued its tradition of giving. This year GRAWA joined forces with the Central and Western New York women’s bar associations to raise money for the American Red Cross to support our sister chapters in the New York City area who were devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

GRAWA has also been infused with an impressive amount of new energy that produced a number of innovative and fun programs. For example, the Newly Admitted Women Attorneys Committee organized an amazing race-type event called “GRA-walk.” Creative and humorous clues led teams through some of Rochester’s many attractions, providing an entertaining way to familiarize newer attorneys with our area. NAWA also organized a “Bowling with the Board” event for new and newly admitted members to connect with GRAWA’s Board of Directors. Further, GRAWA celebrated the men who support its mission at a “Guys for GRAWA” event.

Community service continues to be an integral part of GRAWA’s programming. This year we celebrated the Dr. Seuss National Day of Reading by reading to elementary students at Rochester’s School 29. GRAWA’s Diversity Committee organized opportunities for members and their families to participate in the Martin Luther King National Day of Service. Members collected food, volunteered at Foodlink, helped repair a Volunteers of America daycare room, and answered calls at a hotline for the Volunteer Legal Services Program.  GRAWA also partnered with the American Heart Association to hold a wine and chocolate tasting event to raise awareness of heart disease.

In addition to GRAWA’s regular social and networking events, other opportunities were provided to assist members in various stages of their careers. A panel event called “Is Retirement on Your Horizon?” was offered for people considering leaving the practice of law and embarking on a new phase in life. The Women’s Connections and Family and Careers committees partnered to present programs for women seeking to transition or enhance their careers, including one program on transition trends and tips, and another on nonprofit board participation for career enhancement.

GRAWA also continues to enjoy a mutually supportive relationship with the Monroe County Bar Association and the Rochester Black Bar Association with whom we shared the NYSBA Bar Leaders Award for the Diversity Clerkship Program.

We are showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, GRAWA is partnering with the Western New York Women’s Bar Association to provide a CLE on advanced appellate practice followed by a dinner reception on June 11, at the Red Osier in Stafford, N.Y. This CLE will feature Appellate Justices the Hon. Nancy E. Smith and the Hon. Erin M. Peradotto along with the Hon. Frances E. Cafarell, clerk of the Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department.

None of GRAWA’s accomplishments would have been possible without the continued support and dedication of its members. The cooperative efforts of our diverse and dynamic membership allowed us to maintain our traditions while incorporating new ideas. Our board, committees and events are filled with both newer attorneys and our more “seasoned” members, including many past presidents who bring a wealth of institutional knowledge. It has been nothing short of a privilege for me to be a part of this organization, and I am looking forward to GRAWA’s future.

GRAWA will soon be celebrating the installation of its new board of directors, including Melanie Wolk, who will be GRAWA’s 31st president. GRAWA’s installation dinner is being held on May 15 at Gatherings at the Daisy Flour Mill. There is still time to join us! Also, if you join or renew your membership on or before the installation dinner, your name will be entered into a drawing to win a day at the Del Monte Spa, including a one night stay and two 50-minute spa treatments!

While I will always relish my time as GRAWA president, I am thrilled to hand over the reins to Melanie Wolk, who has been a constant source of support. GRAWA is certainly in good hands as we embark on another exciting year!

Kimberly Duguay is the 30th president of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys and an appellate attorney at the Monroe County Public Defender Office, where she practices in the areas of criminal and family law.